In December 2022 the final STPR2 report was published. The draft report had appeared at the beginning of 2022 and a consultation process followed. In the expectation that consultation comments would have been taken on board and that the final report would show significant differences from the draft version, many happy hours were spent comparing the rail parts of the two documents side-by-side.
This proved to be a disappointing and largely fruitless exercise since the draft report's contents have mostly been replicated word for word.
It is possible to speculate about the significance of the few differences found. The Clyde Metro section has been completely rewritten and expanded, which suggests it's in planners' minds at the moment. The Aberdeen Rapid Transit section also has a little more detail.
The section about Highland Mainline Rail Corridor Enhancements has not changed and still "recommends a programme of enhancements, including new and longer passing loops with more flexibility, and permissible speed increases. This would achieve improvements to journey times and increases in capacity and reliability for passenger and freight services."
For those in search of more specific and encouraging plans the National Case for Change Report Appendix E: Options Sifted In for Further Consideration through STPR2, published two years ago, has many references to the Far North Line including:
And a detailed list of works needed on the line for freight:
In the introduction to "Initial appraisal: Case for Change - National - STPR2", from which the items above were extracted, it is stated that: "We're currently undertaking the second Strategic Transport Projects Review (STPR2) to inform the Scottish Government's transport investment programme in Scotland over the next 20 years (2022 - 2042).
STPR2 takes a national overview of the transport network with a focus on regions and will help deliver the vision, priorities and outcomes that are set out in the new National Transport Strategy (NTS2)."
We have no knowledge of the current status of the items listed above, except for the loading gauge alterations which are being co-ordinated with electrification work. FoFNL has a meeting with Network Rail in January where we will seek more information.